In 1992, the Ewell family was living a quietly wealthy life in Fresno, California. Dale Ewell had made his fortune selling small aircraft to farmers and ranchers. He and his wife were almost finished raising their two children, son Dana and daughter Tiffany.
Dana Ewell was still living with his parents at the age of 21. He was extremely intelligent and doing well at the University of Santa Clara (okay, except for plagiarizing a paper for a business ethics class. That was probably a sign.), but he had some issues. Most notably, he told anyone who would listen that he was the self-made millionaire. One version of his story was that he was a gifted investor; another version had him president of his own aviation company. Neither were true, but both got back to Dale.
Dale didn’t find his son’s bragging cute, and he informed Dana that there would be no more financial support from the family. Dana liked driving his BMW and wearing designer clothing- life without Dad’s money was going to be uncharted territory.
Ewell enlisted the help of his friend Joel Radovich. Radovich would do the actual killing while Ewell was miles away on a trip with girlfriend Monica Zent (there has never been any proof that Zent knew of their plot). Ewell would compensate Radovich once he inherited his father’s money. Another friend, Ernest Jack Ponce, provided the gun and helped destroy evidence after the murders.
Once Radovich gunned down the Ewells in their home, Dana found out that he couldn’t inherit any of his father’s money until he turned 25. It was his emotional reaction to this inconvenient truth and not his family’s demise, that set detectives on Ewell’s trail (Dana did inherit a $400k trust fund, which he spent like a seasoned pro).
After an investigation that lasted several years, both Ewell and Radovich were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Dana Ewell found religion in prison, according to his prison pen pal profile. He has exhausted all of his appeals. He is housed in the same protective housing unit as Charles Manson. He continues to claim that he is innocent.
Joel Radovich is also serving a life sentence, and you can be his pen pal too (whoopee).
Monica Zent, Dana’s college girlfriend, has become a successful Silicon Valley attorney, in part with funds provided by Ewell after the murders.
Ernest Jack Ponce assisted in the investigation and was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony against Ewell and Radovich. He is also a California attorney, which is terrifying.
Dale Ewell’s brothers have campaigned to keep Dana from hiring attorneys to work on his appeal with Dale’s money.
Catch Me If You Can by Kraig Hanadel
Seeds of Evil by Carlton Smith (one of my all-time favorite true crime writers!)